Washington DC enjoys 3-day weekend as millions in U.S. face unpaid bills, evictions, hunger

Get the latest from The Mind Unleashed in your inbox. Sign up right here.

(TMU) – With negotiations over a new stimulus package continuing to fail in the U.S. Congress, lawmakers left Washington, D.C. to enjoy a 3-day weekend despite the dire uncertainty being felt by tens of millions of unemployed Americans nervous about unpaid bills and rent.

Democrats and Republicans continue to remain at each other’s throats over the shape of any new stimulus package that could keep the pandemic-stricken economy from utterly collapsing, with Democrats backing the $3 trillion HEROES Act and Republicans backing a far more austere $1 trillion HEALS Act.

While both sides have signaled that they are willing to reach a compromise to pass a bill, conservatives and liberals are mired in numerous impasses over issues ranging from unemployment benefits to aid for states and financial assistance to public schools.

With little solution in sight, the Republican-controlled Senate led by Mitch McConnell adjourned for a three-day weekend.

President Donald Trump also arrived in New Jersey on Thursday to enjoy a three-day vacation at his Bedminster golf course, a move he described as a “peaceful protest” against the media during a private party at the exclusive club on Friday.

In the meantime, jobless Americans are being left in the lurch as unemployment continues to hover above 10 percent, a number far higher than during the peak of the 2008 financial crisis. Last week an additional 1.18 million people filed for unemployment benefits, marking the 19th week in a row that jobless claims exceeded 1 million, according to The Guardian.

Prior to the coronavirus pandemic, the record for weekly claims was 695,000 in October 1982 during the early 1980s recession – a severe economic downturn that may seem mild in comparison to the current crisis.

And as members of Congress enjoys its 3-day holiday, Americans are continuing to tighten their belt in the absence of the extra $600 they had been receiving on top of their normal unemployment benefits until the payments expired at the end of July.

The end of a federal moratorium on evictions also poses the danger that up to 40 million Americans may be spending their final months with a roof over their heads.

Economists are warning that without any replacement for the lost benefits, homelessness, poverty, and previously unseen levels of hunger could engulf the United States – with harsh consequences for the economy in general, causing a vicious circle that will further impoverish Americans.

 “The $600 benefit is essential for millions of people to get food, to pay rent, to care for their children, to afford basic necessities. If it is cut off, it will mean a sharp decline in their living standards, an increase in poverty, and completely unnecessary suffering,” wrote Heidi Shierholz, the senior economist and director of policy at the Economic Policy Institute (EPI).

“The spending generated by that $600 is supporting over 5m jobs. In other words, kill the $600 and you will kill 5m jobs – jobs in every single state,” she wrote.

In the meantime, JP Morgan and The University of Chicago wrote in a July study that the loss of $600 payments for jobless Americans will result in a 4.2 percent drop in consumption, far exceeding the 2.9 percent fall experienced during the span of the Great Recession.

While political and financial elites are universally convinced of the need to avoid further economic calamities, on Friday partisan divisions continued to stymie any possibility of an agreement, with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin dismissing House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s offer to trim the Democrats’ $3.5 trillion stimulus proposal by a trillion dollars as a “non-starter.”

Republicans continue to demand that employers be granted legal protections against health claims by workers that are related to the coronavirus. They also are demanding that local governments receive far less aid under their proposed stimulus package.

On Friday evening, President Donald Trump blasted Democratic leadership for the stalemate while claiming that he would offer his own unilateral solution through executive order.

“Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer continue to insist on radical left-wing policies that have nothing to do with the China virus,” Trump said. “If Democrats continue to hold this critical relief hostage, I will act under my authority as president to get Americans the relief they need.”

Trump also said that he would defer payroll taxes and student loan interest, extend the eviction moratorium, and offer jobless benefits through the rest of the year.

However, analysts have dismissed the president’s statements as electioneering and posturing, given that issues regarding federal spending remain in the hands of Congress.

According to White House officials, Trump could sign the order as soon as Saturday, reports NBC.

In the meantime, however, the Senate’s long weekend is not going over well with Americans, who are taking to social media to blast lawmakers.